Celtics Sparked by Smart's Historic Effort in Game 2 Return

The heart and soul of the Boston Celtics returned to action for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday night and didn’t skip a beat. In fact, Marcus Smart had never looked better.

With his game flowing as smoothly as his shamrock-green hair, the Defensive Player of the Year stepped up and delivered the best playoff performance of his career. After missing Game 1 with a mid-foot sprain, Smart came back and logged 24 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds, three steals, and just one turnover, becoming just the second player in NBA history to log such a postseason stat line along with Hall-of-Fame point guard Isiah Thomas (the other IT).

More importantly, Smart led the Celtics to a dominant, 127-102 series-tying win in Miami to flip the momentum in their favor after suffering a 118-107 defeat in Game 1 while their starting point guard was sidelined.

“For me today, it was just come out and be as aggressive as you can and not let the same mistake happen,” Smart said of his individual performance and the team’s bounce-back effort. “We're playing against a really, really, really, really good Miami team, and when you make mistakes, they make you pay for it. We've got to limit those mistakes. That was my mindset coming in, get Jayson (Tatum) and Jaylen (Brown) the ball, Al (Horford), get them their shots open, and take what the defense gives you.”

Smart brought the intensity out of the gate, guiding the C’s to an 11-point lead after one quarter. That soon turned into a 25-point lead by the end of the second quarter, which marked the team’s second-largest halftime lead on the road in its playoff history.

Connecting on a game-high five 3-pointers, Smart also helped Boston to become the 20th team in NBA history to shoot 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range, and 90 percent from the free-throw line.

“As always he sets the tone,” said Ime Udoka. “Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. Ability to switch and switch onto bigger bodies and just another good defender to throw at (Jimmy) Butler, (Bam) Adebayo, some of those guys and not have to worry about them trying to pick on certain matchups. He brings the physicality every night, kind of gets everybody else in line.”

Smart’s defense on Butler was crucial, as he helped to limit Miami’s star wing to 29 points following a monster, 41-point effort in Game 1.

Butler, impressed with his counterpart’s impact, said, “As a Defensive Player of the Year, night in, night out, taking that matchup and being able to play on both sides of the ball, that's crucial for them. He was a big part of them winning this game tonight, along with Al Horford (10 points on 100 percent shooting), and obviously JT (27 points) and JB (24 points) do what they do. But they came out and willed that organization, that team to a W. You have to respect him and what he does.”

Such respect is felt throughout the league, as opposing teams have come to understand how much of a difference Smart makes when he’s on the floor. Having him back in the lineup meant everything for the Celtics in Game 2, and now they have a notch in the win column to show for it.

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